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Internet Data is Not an Invisibility Cloak, But a Powerful Tool

  • 3 min read

Is it time for the industry to change some longstanding perceptions of online sources of data?

I believe so, and here’s why.

I came across this news a couple of weeks ago, highlighting the untrustworthiness of online form data. Now, from reading this, it would seem to the casual observer that self-reported, online data is highly suspect. Without a doubt, in some cases it can be. You would be hard pressed to find someone who hasn’t occasionally got sick of adding their email address for the nth time, and resorts to ‘[email protected]’. However, online data can and is much more powerful, reliable, varied and actionable than this.

It’s a simple fact that the validity of online data is far from the problem which it once was. Smart cookie use, and continual developments in data analysis mean that quite often, brands can identify which visits to their site come from existing customers, for example. Online remains a powerful tool in the marketers’ arsenal when it comes to freshening databases with self-reported insights (once appropriately screened), and the information gleaned from online browsing and customer interactions is increasingly vital to informing real world interactions – and vice versa.

Of course, online sources have come a long way from self-reported forms. We’re now at a point where Forrester has acknowledged identity resolution – being able to link a real world individual to online behaviours – as a major force shaping the future of online marketing and attribution. This is the missing link which has eluded many traditional and digital marketers for years, and it’s all possible thanks to onboarding. We’re also of course at a point where many consumers are well accustomed to the value exchange, and realise that if they provide fake information to a brand, they won’t receive the benefits.

All the data that online can provide – from transactional, behavioural and attitudinal from (yes) online surveys – is some of the most actionable, some of the most powerful, some of the most insightful sources of business and customer knowledge that exists. Even understanding whether or not a customer is accessing your site through their mobile device, their tablet, or a traditional PC can tell smart marketers reams about recency, loyalty and propensity to buy. It can easily make the difference between a customer defecting or reengaging someone for the long term. This represents significant strides forward for smart, data-fuelled marketing, and it’s something the industry should rightly be proud of. Making the connection between real world and online action is a significant step towards meaningful attribution and measurement.

While it’s unbelievably easy for marketers to let technology take the reigns in a world where the stack seems to get higher every day, the simple fact is that connecting all of the channels together and weighing the influence of each is fuelled and informed by data – the more recent the data, the better. So the database marketers should be the ones to seize and champion that potential and keep pace with the possible.

Undeniably, there are certain longstanding truths at the core of proper data marketing which will continue to hold true as cornerstones of best practice. Proper attention to privacy and permissions, a regular process for cleansing and screening, and a trusted supply of fresh insights to keep things up to date will never go away as methods of keeping your data insights shipshape. However, if you’re still of the mindset that online information is something which will mislead you may well mean you will soon be fighting a complicated battle with one arm tied behind your back – while other businesses are connecting the dots and serving the customers with relevant, actionable and timely messages.